(Re)sourcing the Character and Resilience Manifesto: Suppressions and slippages of (re)presentation and selective affectivities

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This article offers a critical discursive reading of the 2014 Character and Resilience Manifesto (hereafter the Manifesto), focusing on the sources and legitimation strategies supporting its claims. As an All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility document, the Manifesto traces both old and new discursive tropes framing policy strategy on education and social care, extending into current political agendas around mental health and well-being and even child safeguarding and securitisation. While the Manifesto’s supposed evidence-based claims draw extensively on a specifically commissioned literature review undertaken by Gutman and Schoon, problems are identified with how this is represented in the Manifesto, including significant omissions and slippages within Gutman and Schoon’s text and between this and the Manifesto. Analysis highlights exaggerations of the claims made in Gutman and Schoon’s review in the Manifesto while important conceptual clarifications (between resilience and coping and the non-generalisability of resilience) are overlooked. Commentators’ cautions over the evaluation and comparability of current programmes also fail to appear. Beyond such asymmetries, a common narrative identified across both texts reformulates emotions away from their ‘soft’, culturally feminised, associations to become ‘hard and tough’, and abstracted from relationship and (sociopolitical) context. Clearly, such gendering of emotions can be situated in relation to wider discourses of feminisation, alongside others de-emphasising classed and racialised inequalities. Overall, the Manifesto performs its own rhetoric, manifesting its own buoyancy to resist critical engagement and further the contemporary moral doctrine of inciting voluntarist optimistic subjects, devoid of attention to class, gender or racialised inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-437
Number of pages22
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number2
Early online date30 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Character
  • Class
  • Education
  • Evidence
  • Gender
  • Governmentality
  • Policy
  • Race
  • Representations
  • Resilience


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